Escape to the Idyllic, Uncrowded Beaches of St. George Island, Florida

Serene stretches of coastline await you at this tucked-away Florida oasis.

Wake up by the water, walk the Gulf-facing coastline, and set up for an afternoon of fishing or birdwatching. Days at St. George Island float on easily and effortlessly, like a kayak bobbing on the Gulf's clear waters.

A peaceful barrier island off the Florida Panhandle, St. George Island is one of the Sunshine State's best-hidden destinations. Unlike other parts of the Panhandle that have attracted large crowds and national attention, St. George remains a gem of the Forgotten Coast, perfectly suited for a low-key escape. The 22-mile stretch of land straddles the Gulf of Mexico and Apalachicola Bay—talk about the best of both worlds.

St. George Island State Park
James Randklev/Getty

Escape the crowds and get in touch with nature at this laid-back vacation spot, where an itinerary is entirely unnecessary. The island's serene vibe makes it the perfect spot to cast a line. With opportunities for fishing both in the bay and the Gulf, St. George Island subscribes to a choose-your-own-adventure mentality. In the bay, you might just reel in sheepshead, speckled trout, flounder, redfish, or tripletail; the Gulf can reward you with some prized catches (the likes of snapper, grouper, sea bass, mackerel, mahi-mahi, and even sharks).

St. George Island State Park crowns the northern tip of the island: the miles of white-sanded, undeveloped beaches provide the perfect setting to watch the sun sink in the sky. Come for the daytime shelling and beachcombing, then stick around for a night of stargazing. Since the park remains largely untouched, it's home to a diversity of wildlife; you might just spot a sea turtle nest at the park's pristine beaches (look, don't touch).

Speaking of animals, good news: Your best friend is along for the ride. And by best friend, we mean Fido, of course. St. George Island is one of the only pet-friendly beaches in Florida: "Many of our vacation homes, stores, and restaurants welcome four-legged visitors with open arms," the island advertises.

Outdoor beach bar The Blue Parrot certainly delivers on the island dining experience. The tiki-inspired haunt offers a variety of always-fresh, always-local seafood, from oysters to conch fritters. Get a taste of everything with the World Famous Blue Parrot Seafood Platter, which features grouper, shrimp, oysters, scallops, and a crab cake, done up just how you like them (fried, grilled, blackened, broiled: you name it). And when, a few months later, you're inevitably feeling nostalgic for your days by the water, tune into Blue Parrot's live webcam to bring a little island spirit home with you.

The picture-perfect island would not be complete without the charming and iconic St. George Lighthouse. Looking for more adventure? Explore nearby Apalachicola or Alligator Point.

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